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Christmas is Not Pagan - Part I

By Dr. Richard P. Bucher

Since authoring the articles on the Origin of the Christmas Tree and Santa Claus two years ago, I have received dozens of e-mail from readers who scolded me for celebrating Christmas at all. In one form or another, some with kindness, some with invective, they all asserted, "Don't you know that Christmas is based on pagan festivals and customs? Therefore to celebrate it is to embrace paganism and to sin against God." In most cases the e-mailers admonished me to dig deeper into the "real" origin of Christmas. So I followed their advice - in a way. I began searching the web for others who held this position, and found a multitude of articles.

Consider the following quotations as examples. In his "Is Christmas Christian?," Michael Schneider states:

    This may be a shocking thought to some: but after wrestling with the question for several years now, searching the scriptures and church history, I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing Christian about Christmas; that in its present observance, as well as in its origin, Christmas is basically and essentially pagan.

    What I'm saying, then, is that the real Christmas has always been pagan, and to make it a Christian celebration is to try to add Christ or biblical elements to an essentially pagan holiday.

Rick Meisel echoes this sentiment in "Tis the Season for Pagan Worship":

    What many in Christendom have been celebrating--Christmas--is a thoroughly pagan holiday--in its origin, in its trappings, and in all its traditions.

    The modern conservative cry to put Christ back into Christmas is absurd. Jesus Christ was never in Christmas.

I carefully read these and other articles and books because I wanted to know the basis for their argumentation. What I found is that, though there are minor differences, they all make the same basic argument and recycle the same reasons why Christmas is pagan [by "pagan" the various authors mean "non-Christian religions."].

Their argument is this: "Christmas is obviously pagan because:

  • There is neither Biblical command or precedent for it;
  • Christians did not observe it until the time of Constantine (after 313 AD); only then did the Church of Rome introduce it;
  • The Date of Christmas and its many customs all come from pagan sources;
  • When Christians observe Christmas in any way they are participating in paganism."

It is my position that Christmas is certainly not pagan, though many customs have gravitated to Christmas that have pagan origins. Therefore, in this article I would like to respond to those that argue that Christmas is pagan. I will attempt to show that though at times their facts are correct, in most cases their logic is not, which causes them to make false assumptions and conclusions repeatedly.

Before proceeding, however, one more observation. Most of those who argue for the pagan nature of Christmas appear to be sincere Christians who want to base everything they believe and do on the Bible. They are not fanatics. They believe in and value the incarnation and birth of Jesus Christ. It is simply their belief that the annual celebration of Christmas past and present is pagan and therefore the Christian should have no part in it.

In fact, if the "Christmas is pagan" crowd merely presented their argument as "opinion," there would be no urgent need to respond. But it is the fact that they condemn Christmas observers as guilty of idolatry and, and in some cases, suggest that Christians who do Christmas are risking their salvation that is just too much. For in so doing they are binding Christian consciences and robbing Christians of their God-given freedom, making unnecessary matters necessary. More on this later. Now on to the analysis

Table of Contents


"Christmas is Obviously Pagan Because:

There is No Biblical Command or Precedent for It (Part II)

Christians Did Not Celebrate Christ's Birth Until the Time of Constantine (313 AD) (Part III)

The Date of Christmas and its Many Customs Come from Paganism" (Part IV)